With rosters in place and training camps inching closer, it is time to evaluate what we know about each team. In this series, TGH will predict where each team will land in their division, and whether or not they will be in contention for the playoffs. Today, the AFC South predictions are up.
First Place – Indianapolis Colts
After losing Andrew Luck to retirement during the preseason, the Colts somehow rallied to put together a respectable 7-9 campaign. Considering the chaos borne out of one of the best players in the NFL retiring in his prime, 7-9 is about the best anyone could ask for.
Jacoby Brissett tried his best to rally the troops, and did a serviceable job. But instead of roll with him again, Indianapolis signed Phillip Rivers after he parted ways with the Chargers. His best years are behind him, but since the Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the entire league, the 38-year-old can still find success in this system.
Their biggest need was defensive tackle. The Colts smartly traded away their first round pick in return for DeForest Buckner, someone who has already had success in the league and will be highly controllable. Instead of drafting a product, they chose a veteran in lieu of a pick.
With their two second round picks, they chose weapons for Rivers. Michael Pittman, Jr., a wide receiver, and an all-time great Wisconsin Badgers running back in Jonathan Taylor. If T.Y. Hilton can stay healthy, which is a big “if,” that is already a formidable foursome on offense.
Indianapolis is poised to take a big leap in 2020. It will be a very tight race between the Colts, Texans and Titans, but with the veteran leadership of Rivers, they can take the AFC South crown.
Second Place – Tennessee Titans
Tennessee was the most surprising team of the 2019 season. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Titans made the AFC Championship on the back of Derrick Henry’s historic season. In addition, Ryan Tannehill also had a resurgence, appearing in and winning the first playoff games of his career.
Henry was retained, and it is expected he will again run roughshod over the entire league yet again. Even with the departure of tackle Jack Conklin, it is hard to see him take a step backwards. Tannehill also got paid, so he may throw the ball with a bit more confidence in 2020.
Their departures, including tight end Delanie Walker and backup running back Dion Lewis, may hurt morale, but will not hamstring the offense. Apart from Vic Beasley, their free agent signings did not make huge splashes.
After losing Conklin, the Titans decided to immediately draft his replacement with their first round pick. Isaiah Wilson, out of Georgia, was a part of the run on offensive lineman in the first round of the 2020 draft.
In short, the Titans did not get much better for 2020, but did not get any worse, either. The three teams at the top of this conference will likely be within a game or two of each other, but second place seems the safest considering their talent. Look for them to be another playoff spoiler next year.
Third Place – Houston Texans
This is the year that the Texans’ strange roster moves may finally come back to bite them.
Houston traded one of the best receivers in the league, DeAndre Hopkins, for an aging and injured running back in David Johnson. Also, however well Laremy Tunsil continues to work out for the Texans, they still were stripped of their first round pick during this draft.
Deshaun Watson will still be great, and the defense could continue to produce. But, with their lack of free agent signings and questionable trades, it is very hard to see them repeating as as AFC South champions.
They may return to the playoffs if the division race is as close as it seems to be before the season begins. Even so, without a star receiver Watson will have to carry the team by himself. As great as he is, though, Super Bowl LV is not in their future.
Fourth Place – Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags are taking the place of the Miami Dolphins in 2020. After committing to a rebuild and letting some of their best assets walk, Jacksonville is expected to have one of the worst records in the entire NFL.
Lost to the rebuild were Calais Campbell, Marqise Lee and A.J. Bouye, among others. Their highest-profile loss, however, was Nick Foles, who the Jaguars had signed before 2019 began to a large contract. He was traded to the Chicago Bears in an effort to let Gardner Minshew take the reins.
Quarterback Mike Glennon was added, along with Cleveland’s standout linebacker Joe Schobert. Tight end Tyler Eifert joined the fold as well, who can produce well if he stays healthy.
The real highlight of the offseason was the draft. Cornerback C.J. Henderson and defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson were both near the top of their positional rankings in the 2020 draft. They also did not miss their chance to take one of the multitude of receivers with an early pick, grabbing Laviska Shenault.
Regardless of their draft and their additions, however, this team does not have enough firepower on either side of the ball to compete. The offense may still be fun with Minshew at the helm, but this season is lost before it begins. Jaguars fans will have to look forward to the 2021 draft.
Featured Image courtesy of James Kenney/AP Photo
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